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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) (NTSC)

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Released 25-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-4:20
Music Video-3:56
Theatrical Trailer-2:12
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 102:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (41:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By John Patrick Shanley

Warner Home Video
Starring Tom Hanks
Meg Ryan
Lloyd Bridges
Robert Stack
Dan Hedaya
Abe Vigoda
Ossie Davis
Barry McGovern
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Georges Delerue

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Japanese Narrative
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When Joe was told he was dying, he really started to live...

    You may remember a film called You've Got Mail. This was a sweet romantic film with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the leading roles. Of course, it wasn't the first time this pair had played opposite one another. Everyone knows that they starred together in Sleepless in Seattle - there are arguments as to whether they were better in this one or in You've Got Mail. But that wasn't their first outing together, either. You've Got Mail was made in 1998, while Sleepless in Seattle was 1993. Three years earlier, they made Joe Versus the Volcano. Yep, this was the first film they made together. Hmm, I should emphasise, however, that this is not the same kind of film as those two. The other two are fairly straightforward (!) romances, set in a fairly normal world. Joe Versus the Volcano isn't.

    What is Joe Versus the Volcano? (Cool title, don't you think?) It's a modern fairy-tale, sort of. It's about an ordinary Joe (sorry, I had to say that!) who is thrust into strange circumstances. Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) has a lousy job, a lousy boss (Dan Hedaya), and feels bad. His doctor (Robert Stack) tells him he has six months to live, then he's going to die of a condition that has no symptoms (all his symptoms are psychosomatic). This has a galvanising effect on Joe. He quits his job, invites a girl out on a date - impressive. Then he gets an offer from an eccentric billionaire, Samuel Harvey Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges). He needs someone to jump into a volcano so he can negotiate a mining deal with the people living on a small island in the Pacific. Joe takes the job...

    One of the distinctive features of this movie is the music. There are songs which have been chosen to fit in with Joe's situation at various points, and they are much more important than a normal score. A couple of them were specifically written for this movie, but one of the most apt is a performance of Ol' Man River by Ray Charles (taken very slowly - nice stuff). The song that opens the movie, under the opening credits, is Sixteen Tons, sung by Eric Burden - it's fabulous, and arouses exactly the right feelings - it sets up the opening beautifully.

    Tom Hanks captures Joe's journey from helpless wage-slave to someone in touch with his life superbly. Meg Ryan plays three roles. She starts as the timorous brunette Dede, the girl Joe thought he wanted, but was too afraid to ask out. Then she plays the redhead Angelica, who is refined, pretentious, vulnerable, and lost. And then she's the blonde Patricia. Patricia is confident, assertive, and about as far away from Dede as you could get without getting kinky. These women track Joe's changing self.

    The supporting cast are uniformly excellent. Dan Hedaya is marvellous as Joe's boss. Lloyd Bridges plays the eccentric billionaire superbly. Ossie Davis is fun as Joe's chauffeur. Barry McGovern's brief scene as the obsessed luggage salesman is a delight.

    Keep an eye out for the symbol! The first time we see it, it is the logo of the company Joe's working for. It keeps reappearing in some strange places - it's in the missing plaster on Joe's apartment wall, for example. I'm not sure how many times it appears (there are at least five spots), but it's kinda fun to look out for it.

    You can enjoy Joe Versus the Volcano on two levels. The superficial story is fun, and entertaining, and offers plenty of comedy. The deeper exploration of life and meaning is worthwhile, too.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Warning: this is an NTSC disc. You'll need a display that can display NTSC (not too uncommon, today), or a DVD player that will convert NTSC to PAL (quite uncommon). This disc is part of Warner Home Video's new range of discount discs ($19.95 SRP) - their intent would seem to be to save money by reusing their R1 transfers, but it may rebound on them by persuading all their R4 customers to get set up to play R1 discs.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the theatrical aspect ratio - can't complain about that.

    The picture is sharp and clear and is a pleasure to watch. Shadow detail is good, and there's no trace of low-level noise.

    Colour is deliberately distorted in the opening scenes in the factory - lots of unflattering blue, harsh lighting. Be patient. Once Joe is out of the factory and on his way, colour is excellent - good strong fully-saturated colours with no trace of oversaturation or colour bleed.

    I watched this disc three times, and finally found a film artefact - there's a small fleck at 8:45. As far as I can tell, that's the only one (hmm - cue the e-mails from people who spotted another one!). There's minimal aliasing, no moire, and only the tiniest traces of background shimmer. This is an excellent transfer - it may be NTSC, but you could go a long way before you found a better PAL transfer.

    There are subtitles in five languages, including Japanese. There are two sets of Japanese subtitles; the second set is labelled Japanese Narrative - as far as I can tell (not understanding Japanese) these tell the story in some way - interesting concept. The English subtitles (they are not captions) are accurate, well-timed, and attractive to read.

    The disc is single-sided (attractive picture label, identical to the R1) and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is located at 41:24; it is in the middle of a scene, but barely noticeable - very good work.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The English soundtrack is available in both Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded, and Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the 5.1 and sampled the 2.0.

    The dialogue is clear and easily understood. There are no visible audio sync issues.

    The score, by Georges Delerue, is fine, but it is the songs that have the big impact.

    There's little in the way of directional sound, but it didn't bother me - this isn't the kind of film that needs that. The subwoofer gets a little bit of work, but nothing too complex. Fact is, this is a dialogue-driven movie, and you could get away with a mono soundtrack. This isn't mono, and it works nicely.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, but has music behind it (Sixteen Tons). Easy to operate.

Cast and Crew

    A single page listing the main players in the making of this film. The only two for whom we get filmographies are Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Behind the Scenes (4:20)

    This is a short making-of, or an extended trailer. Standard promotional piece.

Music Video - Sixteen Tons (3:56)

    Regular readers of my reviews will know I'm not a big fan of music videos, so they'll be surprised to hear that I kinda liked this one. I really liked the song, so that helped.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

    A genuine, honest-to-goodness, theatrical trailer. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Don't watch it before the movie!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Well, I did a direct comparison of this disc in R1 and R4 versions. The digital content is identical, except for the region coding. The disc label is nearly identical (except for the region marking). The cover artwork is almost identical. There is one difference: the R1 is in a snapper case (bah!), while we get the Cadillac of cases - a transparent Amaray. And the R4 is cheaper - I have no problem recommending it.


    Joe Versus The Volcano is a quirky, entertaining film, presented nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are fairly minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, June 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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